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Welcome Home Warriors Vietnam Veterans Mural Project

Welcome Home Warriors Vietnam Veterans Mural Project

Yucca Valley Artists Awarded International Commission to Honor Vietnam Veterans

On true Larger Than Life Murals scale, Welcome Home Warriors is a huge public art mural honoring veterans and the fallen of the Vietnam War. Yucca Valley artists Linda Shrader and Echo Westover of Larger Than Life Murals were awarded the mural commission after an international call-for-artists by the Manteca Mural Society (MMS), Manteca, CA.

The mother-daughter team recently painted the 16 x 20 foot mural in their Yucca Valley studio, working for the first time on panels of a special fabric-like material called non-woven polyester.


The Painting of Welcome Home Warriors Mural


The Mural Design Phase

Westover took the reins on the original design concept. After months of research and design work, preliminary designs were submitted and reviewed by the mural committee. Public meetings were held to gather community feedback and veteran’s comments. Muralists were narrowed down to 3 finalists, whom then each hand painted a 16″ x 20″ scaled model of their design.

The MMS had a long list of specific content requested by the veterans. The mural includes, an M113 APC (armored personnel carrier), a Chinook and Medevac helicopter, an F-4 Phantom fighter jet, a representation of women in service, although they were not in the field, and a “War Dog” and handler, a bunker, and much more.

What they didn’t want, was something that looked like a collage, or a bunch of individual pictures in boxes. The artists were asked to make the mural look as much as possible like an actual scene from the war.

 

“They didn’t just want us to paint their mural, they wanted us to paint their story.” Linda Shrader

Progress of panels 2 and 3 of the Welcome Home Warriors Mural in the studio. Photo by LTLM.
Progress of panels 2 and 3 of the Welcome Home Warriors Mural in the artist’s studio. Photo by LTLM.

“It was a challenge finding great reference photos for all the content in the necessary angles to work in the composition,” notes Shrader. “We did have to improvise a lot in the design and painting phases to adjust light and shadows to reflect a consistent time of day, and to make everything full color, because so many war photos were shot in black and white or sepia tone.”

While many military photos are available free of charge in the Public Domain, some of the historical photos the artists chose required licensing, which can be quite costly. One image licensed for the mural through Getty Images, the large soldier stepping into the mural, was listed at almost $600.

A Chance Meeting With Tim Page, Iconic Vietnam War Photographer

While researching another photo the artists wanted to use, they thought they had tracked down the original photographer to request a license. The photograph turned out not to be his, but the inquiry had lead them to photojournalist Tim Page, an iconic Vietnam War Photographer, now living in Australia. The photojournalist in ‘Apocalypse Now’, played by Dennis Hopper was based on Page.

Page was happy to help the artists, taking the time to delve into his colossal archive of Vietnam War photos to search for their requests.

“He sent us dozens of images to choose from,” recounts Westover, “Amazing work, all of them. Five of which were perfect to license for the mural. We were very grateful.”

“We also learned through Tim,” adds Shrader, “That so many photographers also died or went missing in Vietnam, and those who returned were never really recognized or welcomed home, just like our military service veterans. I thought it was so apropos that several of Tim’s photos were used for this particular mural.”

For more about Tim Page, visit his website at http://www.timpage.com.au


The Mural Installation

A Seasoned Crew Installs The Mural In One Day

Installer and master muralist, Dave Gordon (pictured below), along with a seasoned all-volunteer crew lead by Ron Cruz, Project Supervisor and Vietnam Combat Veteran, met Shrader for the first time as she delivered the mural to be installed. Beginning at 6:30 AM and finishing just before sunset, the veteran’s mural was installed in one, long day.

Westover arrived a day later, and the artists had a couple of days to perform touch-ups on the mural before Gordon finished the installation phase with protective spray coatings.

The mural transfer, artist Linda Shrader hands over the mural to the installation crew.
L to R, Dave Gordon, Bill Barnhart, Gene Bedard, Linda Shrader, Fred Gallegos, Ron Cruz, Bill Buffington, Jack Dauler, and Roger LaPresle.

The Mural Was Viewed Whole For The First Time

As the lift and protective covering came down, stopping and starting to a loud beep, beep, beep… the mural was viewed whole for the first time. As Shrader stepped back to take it all in, she noticed several of the men from the crew taking photos with their cell phones.

“I got a big kick out of seeing the crew taking photos immediately after they finished,” mused Shrader. “I took it as a sign that they were proud of what we had accomplished.”

Crew Taking Photos After Welcome Home Warriors Mural Installation. Photo by LTLM
Crew Taking Photos After Welcome Home Warriors Mural Installation. Photo by LTLM

Video Slideshow of Welcome Home Warriors Mural Installation

The Vietnam War mural is the fourth mural to be installed as part of a larger mural project which will total $125,000 and 5 murals when completed next year. The veterans and the fallen from World War l, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror will all be represented in the monumental project.


High-Speed Time-Lapse Video of Welcome Home Warriors Mural Installation

Wall before Welcome Home Warriors mural installation.
Wall before Welcome Home Warriors mural installation.

Installed on the oldest and largest historical building in town, the murals grace the East-facing wall of Manteca Bedquarters located at the corner of W. Yosemite Ave and S. Main St, Manteca, CA.


The Mural Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony

Distinguished guests and over 500 people, including many veterans and families of the fallen, were in attendance for the May 20th, mural unveiling and dedication. Speakers delivered moving speeches, including some very emotional ones from Vietnam War veterans.

Over 500 gathered for the Welcome Home Warriors mural unveiling and dedication ceremony. Photo by LTLM.
Over 500 gathered for the Welcome Home Warriors mural unveiling and dedication ceremony.
Photo by LTLM

“We deeply respect you and thank you for your service. As an artist, this is the best way to show that.” Echo Westover


Video Slideshow of  Welcome Home Warriors Mural Unveiling and Dedication

The video features about 5 minutes of some highlights from the 1.5 hour ceremony. Charleen Carroll, MMS Board President, was a wonderful Master of Ceremonies.


A Special Tribute To The Fallen

 

Linda Shrader painting names and ages on tribute in Welcome Home Warriors Mural. Photo by LTLM
Linda Shrader painting names and ages on tribute in Welcome Home Warriors Mural. Photo by LTLM

A portrayal of the Vietnam Memorial Wall with tribute to the 17 fallen men from Manteca and the surrounding communities, is one of the main elements in, and inspiration for the mural. Each man’s name and age is listed, even though ages are not included on the official memorial wall. MMS made this request so that the general public might be more aware of just how young most of these men were when they served their country and paid the ultimate price.

“This is extremely important to me personally. My husband and my brother were together in Vietnam,” recalls Charleen Carroll, MMS Board President. “There were so many young men from here that served, and 17 that passed away. This is a chance to honor them and their service to their country.” Carroll’s brother, 18 year-old Brock Elliot, was the first serviceman from Manteca to give his life.


Help Is Available to Veterans Still Battling…

The Vietnam Veterans went to Washington D.C. and asked for help, and they got it. There are Vet Centers all over the United States.

“Please go. Go right away,” encourages Cruz. “They will welcome you with open arms and I guarantee they will help you. They will help your spouse and immediate family understand why you are the way you are.”

For more information or to locate your nearest Vet Center visit https://www.vetcenter.va.gov


An Original Work

Welcome Home Warriors Mural is an original work commissioned and owned by the Manteca Mural Society, Manteca CA.

Marking the community’s 30th mural adding to the diverse visual narrative of their rich history, more about Manteca murals, visit www.mantecamurals.com.